Saturday, May 26, 2007

Yet another reason...

Yet another reason I'm glad I don't live in New Jersey anymore:

Many of the beach towns on Long Beach Island, one of New Jersey's most popular summer vacation spots, have laws prohibiting people from digging deeper than 12 inches in the sand. They stem from an accident several years ago in which a teenager died when a deep hole he was digging collapsed, burying him.

This year, the prohibition is for a different reason: More than 1,000 pieces of unexploded World War I-era military munitions were unwittingly pumped ashore during a winter beach replenishment project decades after being dumped at sea. Authorities say they've removed everything they could, but can't guarantee more munitions don't remain hidden.

Read the full text here.

A real post

My posts have pretty much been fluff lately. I know that. I won't argue. The thing is... I really don't have an excuse. I haven't been terribly busy.

My job as the temporary secretary at my church (The pastor has taken to calling me "Mr. Secretary", which sounds supremely important. Ha!) is winding down. The personnel committee hired a new guy that will serve both as the music director/organist AND secretary. Both positions were open and the committee feels that his qualifications make him suitable for both jobs. I am thrilled that a new person is coming on board.

Now I can get back to focusing on my own business, which has pretty much stalled during the last few weeks. I've been doing some work here and there, in fact this job for the big downtown church has blossomed into a real opportunity, but I haven't done anything as far as generating new business. I still haven't made up my mailer cards, but in my procrastination I have learned a few things about my own mail-opening habits as the church secretary. I've noticed a few things about what kind of "junk" mail I throw away immediately, versus the mail I at least linger on before throwing away. It's given me a few ideas about how to increase my visibility at that critical moment.

I recently finished a book I had been meaning to read since I was in Egypt called Blood Brothers, the real-life story of Elias Chacour, a Christian Palestinian who was a young boy at the time of Israel's occupation. It is a must-read book that will help you understand the situation from a new point of view.

Here in the west, we get an incomplete view of the Israel/Palestine dilemma and this helps fill the gap. Chacour details the trials and tribulations he and his people went though in those early days, but instead of responding with vitriol and violence, he speaks from a place of peace and justice. He doesn't hesitate at all in telling us the horrible things that have happened to the Palestinian people, but talks of bridging cultures and healing before the book is over.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this book is how the European Jews (as opposed to the Palestinian Jews that lived there long before the occupation) came into Palestine then deceived and murdered Palestinian Muslims and Christians in order to remove them from the land. They themselves had just gone through similar deception and murder in Europe. If any group in the word understood these grievous crimes, it would be the European Jews, right? Why, then, did they perpetrate the same crimes? Better yet, why did we, the rest of the world allow it to happen and then collectively sweep the situation under the rug?

The answer comes in one word: guilt. Western nations felt guilty for what happened to the Jews in Europe. So what did we do? We "gave" them land to form their own country. We gave them free reign to do whatever they want there, including displacing thousands of people through deception and murder. The situation from there has spiraled out of control with so much anger, hatred and confusion, that it seems unlikely that there will ever be peace. Elias Chacour has a different take though and for that, you need to read the book.

Now, the one interesting thing I left out until now is that I got to hear Chacour speak in Egypt. He went on a speaking tour and I was at one of his presentations. You can see my picture of him on this page. Seventh photo down.

Tomorrow is Pentecost and I have been recruited to read a bible passage in Arabic. Every year at this time my church has always done some sort of service where people read aloud in different languages, representing the part of the bible where God humbled his little people by giving them different languages. I will be reading John 14:15-17 from my Van Dyke Arabic bible. I'm not very good about proper pronunciations, but that's okay, because I found this great website with audio recordings of a native speaker reading the bible in Arabic. It's been essential to learning these verses.

Friday, May 25, 2007

30 years ago today, the world changed.

That's right. Thirty years ago today, on May 25th, 1977, a phenomenon was born. Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, X-wings and droids all became apart of the American consciousness. Happy birthday Star Wars.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A heroic conclusion... or was it a conclusion at all?

So is Sylar really dead? Hmmm. That was quite an ending to last night's Heroes. It provided as many questions as it answered. I guess that's what keeps a good show going though. I am curious about this person that is worse than Sylar that Molly spoke about. Methinks is it the new villain for season two.


Whoa! I woke up this morning, went about my usual routine and didn't notice anything different until I got in my car for the 25-mile trip to work. The morning was somewhat chilly, so at first I thought the air was just filled with fog, you know, just thick, condensed moisture.

As I drove a few miles the fog didn't clear. In fact, it got thicker. In broad open areas, like the Wal-Mart parking lot I drove by, the air was white and dense. The sun overhead was a pale yellow, much like it looks an hour before sunset, instead of the intense white it normally is by 8:45 in the morning.

Then somewhere along my trip I finally noticed a smoky smell. My mind started racing. Was there a large fire nearby? I could only think of the people in South Georgia whose houses were going up in flames. Was my house at risk? Should I turn back and collect my most precious possessions?

I put that thought out of my head pretty quickly. I wasn't going to overreact. So I drove all the way to church and the same white, thick smoke accompanied me the entire way.

I checked first thing when I arrived and right on the front page was a video entitled, "Smoke Covers Atlanta." The description of the clip explained that the very same fire I thought of in South Georgia was the same fire that was causing all this smoke. That's a LOT of smoke and it's traveling a looooooong way. That must be some fire!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Just... wow.

Ignore the guy speaking French long enough to see some really cool stuff: real time rendering and tracking. Truly amazing!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

New jobs on the horizon

So, I've had some luck in the business department over the last few days. I've gotten connected with one of the largest churches in Atlanta to do some graphic design. They are celebrating a big anniversary next year and want to do a kind of campaign starting with a logo, which will be used on letterhead, envelopes, greeting cards, t-shirts, and vinyl banners. The logo is based on artwork a member of the church did. She is a liturgical artist and has designed three fantastic cut-paper banners. She gave me a preliminary design as reference for the logo, and the other two will follow as they are completed. I'll post more on this as the project progresses.

I've also gotten a few nibbles in the website design area. Nibbles sometimes don't turn into anything, but sometimes you get a catch. We shall see.

My business is growing up as it now officially has a checking account. Next I am putting together some mailing cards and letterhead/envelopes to promote my services. I'll send out a mailing of about 1000 pieces and see what kind of response I get.

I'm terrified of two possible outcomes. One, that nobody will respond and I will fail before I get started. Two, that the response will be so overwhelming I won't know what to do with myself. I guess the second option is better than the first though, eh?

This is all timing out just right because my church, where I have been working part-time for a few months now, has filled not only the vacant music/choir director position, but also the secretary position (which I was temping for) so I will be moving on at the end of May. Let's hope that business will come along as I need it!

Friday, May 04, 2007

My Name in Fëanorian Letters

I've been reading Tolkien's Silmarillion, the precursor to The Lord of the Rings, and kept wondering how the odd words were pronounced. I remembered seeing a chunk of text on pronunciation in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, so I cracked open my copy of Return of the King to do some research. I ended up getting sucked into not only Tolkien's pronunciation guide, but also the elaborate history of Tolkien's made-up languages and the level of detail with which he created them. I started looking at the Fëanorian alphabet and decided I would try to translate my name. The result is in the image to the left. Yes, I had a nice relaxing day today.